Sunday, December 22, 2013


Four year old Colby honoring Chara.'s point.
Now I have a confession to make, I enjoy hunting with a pile of dogs. I know, it makes little sense. It’s difficult to keep track of them and there are only so many birds to find. I run two a lot, three sometimes, and even have done four fairly often. In the thick grouse woods, four is over the top and I can’t hope to keep track of them by myself.
Three bells ringing is all that I can hope keep track of, and you had better not be distracting me. So far I have resisted the beeper collars.
Twelve year old Chara backing Colby.
What man’s heart doesn’t skip a beat when two or three dogs are all locked up on point simultaneously? And if one bell falls silent and I’m a little vague on where I heard it last, I guide another dog, or dogs, in the general direction of where the missing bell last sang. In short order they always finds the missing dog pointing.
My oldest wirehair, Chara, walks along sorting out scent, never in a hurry at this stage of her life. The younger dogs race about, particularly the youngest, Georgia the German shorthair, all of them covering many times the ground. Yet Chara points as many grouse as either of the youngsters, often in areas that they have barreled right through. What’s the story of the tortoise and the hare…slow and steady wins the race?
Of course Georgia may find a bird sixty yards away that Chara never would have found. That’s reason enough for me to keep up the insanity.
Can you find the third dog pointing that grouse??

Sunday, November 24, 2013


My old girl Chara
The other dogs stayed back at the house, where they could recover from a long day afield. The last hour of the afternoon I had saved for just Chara, my old German wirehair in her thirteenth bird season. It was just going to be the two of us. We parked down near the metal gate where the road has the dog-leg in it. As I opened the truck door a grouse thundered away unseen, and I took that as a good omen.
Chara slipped her head into the belled collar as I offered it, and then I dug my gun out of the back.  With her leading the way we walked down past the tilting gate.
Ahead of us the grassed in logging road sloped into an empty valley. The hills on the far side had been logged hard, and their tops appeared ragged, like a decrepit picket fence. The next paved road in that direction is over twenty miles away in the neighboring state. It’s big country, but we planned to hunt only the cream of it.
Ancient apples.
A few apple trees on the left bore an abundance of fruit, so we poked around, hoping to find a late day grouse, but found nothing. In her old age, Chara walked rather than ran, her nose sifting the air and sorting scents that I would never imagine. It was easy to keep up with her senior pace, a pleasant treat after three days of hunting behind big running youngsters.
The forest turned to poplar, maple, and birch, all the diameter of a grapefruit and as tall as a four story building. A few years earlier it was dynamite woodcock and grouse country, but those days were gone. Chara searched hard, but we found nothing.
Where an intersecting logging road cut us off, we crossed the grassy road into alders to start back up the hill. Beyond chin-high raspberries, Chara’s bell went silent.
Chara pointing the woodcock.
Carefully I waded through the thorns, and then ducked or stepped over alders until I found her statue-like and facing my direction. Approaching and wondering…. Where?
The woodcock leapt skyward, then spiraled behind a young fir. I swung and fired over the top of the tree as I expected the bird to appear, but evidently she was a local and knew her way out the backdoor. 
We tried to find that woodcock again, but never did. After walking past a recently cut area, we strolled into a long abandoned field. Almost immediately Chara pointed toward a squat apple tree growing among low bush blueberries. As I approached a grouse rocketed out of the back, flying close to the ground and not offering a shot.
Chara on point among wild apples.
As if pulled by a string attached to her nose, Chara followed that grouse’s scent to where it disappeared into a thicket of alder and wild apples. While Chara worked her way through the tangle I followed on the outside, hoping to get a shot. But the bird bolted low across the field and then rose up into the tree line far beyond.
We continued to hunt up the hill, bouncing between apple trees, alder patches, and clusters of firs. Nearing the crest, Chara locked up rigid under a particularly large apple tree that grew against three or four old fir trees. Before I got there the partridge exploded out of the back and followed his cousin into the trees beyond the field.
By that time we were almost back to the truck and the sun had slipped behind the hill. That late day chill had settled in so it was time to call it a day. I said, “Chara, come, let’s go back to the truck.”
 That’s when I realized that during the entire hunt I had never said a word to my favorite girl, only whistled softly through my teeth to turn her when needed. And I never had to walk faster than a leisurely pace.
It was the most civilized ruffed grouse hunt that I have ever had, and I didn’t even have to clean birds afterward.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Georgia, the story continues…

Room to run in the big woods.
At a little over two and a half years of age, it was Georgia’s third foray up to the big north woods with me. Her owners, both non-hunters, loved that their shorthair got the chance to experience “what she was bred for”.
Her first year she just tagged along, playing as much as hunting and learning what life is all about. Ruffed grouse baffled her, but occasionally a woodcock would hold for a point. The second season it all started to come together, and during the second week of that trip she pointed her first ruffed grouse. There were more points that week, as it all started to come together, but also periods of over-exuberance (read: unruly flushing of grouse, most far enough away that they could be heard but not seen).  And then this fall, after a couple of rather rowdy days burning off steam, she settled down and hunted like a champ, pointing over a dozen grouse, politely honoring on still more than that, and doing both on countless woodcock.
Georgia with a bird pinned.
In her puppy days, Georgia had been taught the basic manners that all dogs should be taught, but since then has had almost no training in hunting. Before taking her north for the second season, we did a little work on planted pigeons and stalked a few pheasants that the state of Massachusetts had nicely provided, but I doubt there was five hours of training all together.
Before heading north this year I took her out into the fields behind the house to find pigeons that I’d planted, and she solidly pointed every single one of them. Georgia did it with such regularity that it was almost boring to work with her. Again, we only trained a few of hours, total.
Three tired dogs.
Her breeders, Hedgehog Hill Shorthairs in Belmont, Vermont, did a spectacular job of breeding for temperament balanced with hunting skills. Georgia was so well mannered this year that I’ve told people it was as if she knew she was a guest and wouldn’t be invited back again if she misbehaved. It was a pleasure to have her in the house as well as on the hunt.
We won’t get north again this season, so now it’s the waiting, but it’s only three hundred and twenty days until it’s October again! I think Georgia has the days marked on a calendar in her kennel.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Great Idea

I wish it was an original idea on my part, but most of us have seen the gun storage boxes in ads in the backs of the bird hunting magazines. A gentleman that I hunted with a few years ago had one in the back of his SUV and the concept of firearms safely stored yet with easy access was impressive.
I have priced the things and none of them are cheap, so being a thrifty (read: cheap) Yankee I’d thought about building one. Now I have an advantage over most because I’m a cabinet maker by trade with my shop only a hundred feet from our home. Materials left over from jobs accumulate in the attic of the barn and by poking around there certainly would be all that I needed.
So only a couple of days before my annual two week trip up to the grouse woods, I spent an afternoon putting together my gun box.
The outside of the box itself is ¾ inch marine grade mahogany plywood (yes, at almost three hundred bucks a sheet it was left over from a job). The bottom I left long enough to reach the front of the truck’s bed, so the thing wouldn’t slide forward when I avoid a moose or stop suddenly somewhere for a coffee. The drawer itself is ½” prefinished birch plywood, and the face of the drawer is made of butternut. Between the drawer front and the box I put weather stripping to form a gasket and keep out dust. Cheaper materials would certainly provide just as serviceable until, but, being a cabinet maker, the box had to look nice so that it looked like I knew what I was doing.
The drawer slides came from a pull-out pantry and are rated for 500 pounds. That is overkill. The drawer is 47” long, but the slides are only 28” full extension, yet they provide ample access. Long drawer slides are expensive and I didn’t want to purchase them if they weren’t needed.
I put a hasp on each side of the box that can keep the drawer shut when the truck is parked on a slope and also allow padlocking. Inside are four slots, two sized for twelve gauge side by sides, and the other two fit over and unders, pumps, or twenty gauge side by sides. The slots were all lined with terrycloth (an old towel) to protect the guns. Next to them I made three lift out boxes to hold shells, gloves, dog first aid things, and whatever.
During my trip the storage unit made life easier than I ever imagined, and the guns had never been so well protected. The truck’s tailgate when shut just touches the pull on the drawer’s front, securing the box when the tailgate is locked.

Now I wonder why I waited so long to build the thing.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Hidden Homestead

I’m certain others know it is there. The apple trees give it away. My dogs and I visited the spot for the first time this year, walking down from the field on the hill above and then following a snowmobile trail into the woods. Where the land flattens out I spotted several apple trees off to the south.
It was classic New England bird country, with poplars as big as my thigh and alders coming up in clusters. Spots of grass told of old fields, and spruce, fir, and maples and birch crowded in from beyond.
We hunted in a circle, following the edge where the apples met the young forest. The dogs bumped a grouse. It looked like woodcock country too, and I looked for splash, but never saw any.
An ancient stone wall.
And then I spotted the wall. It was less than three feet tall and probably slightly wider. Moss almost hid it. Nearby a pile of stones, waist high and about the area of a swimming pool, told of frustration from farming that land. It took some poking around, but I found the stone foundation. They hadn’t dug a cellar, but built over a shallow crawl space. The rock pile was larger.
I set down my gun and sat on a rock, trying to imagine what the settlers had seen that attracted them to that spot. The dogs never stopped hunting, living in the moment as they always do, unaware of the past.
A rock pile left behind by a determined settler.
The hill above faced to the east, and the spot where I had stopped still sloped, but very gently. The land sat high enough that early frosts would settle into the valley below, and the morning sun would warm the land. North winds would break up against the side of the hill, particularly if the homesteader left a few trees to that side. I could see how an optimistic person might fall in love with the spot.
But snow on the ground for five months of the year must have made for tough farming. And the bony wet ground would have made rough work. Cutting away the trees and encouraging grasses must have dried things out a bit, but rain is frequent in that part of New England and the weather can be vicious. I’ve hunted there when it’s rained for most of a week, cold rain. And an early or late frost would have been devastating.
My girls pointing in the thick of it.
I realized the dog’s bells had silenced, so grabbed my gun and took off to find them. In the southeast corner they both stood near a fir tree, pointing toward a decrepit busted-up apple tree. Before I got there the partridge flushed, not offering a shot.
The bells started ringing as the dogs hunted again, living in the moment.

Monday, October 14, 2013


It’s a new season, and with still so many questions to answer. The spring and summer have been wet, not with an abundance of rain but frequent. How did the broods survive?
Young of the year and still rather dumb.
We went up to grouse country the beginning of September, having missed our usual summer visits. The dogs found a grouse here and there, and then the last day before we left they hit pay dirt, busting a covey of maybe a dozen.  That wasn’t enough evidence though to form a solid opinion.
On October first, a rather warm opening day, we found a scattering of grouse, maybe eight or ten, all skittish as the devil, each of them disappearing into the bright autumn foliage in the blink of an eye. One lone woodcock offered the only shot fired, and that was a miss that I still can’t believe. Yet I still didn’t dare announce an opinion on how the season would be.
Last season seemed to be the best of my lifetime, yet come wintertime, when I tallied up all the numbers and compared them to previous years, it wasn’t all that different. If you added in woodcock the numbers were impressive, but grouse alone was only slightly better than average.
The reports from upcountry are good, not spectacular, but good. We’ll have to wait and see. By the time we get back up there the leaves will be off and the dogs are ready.

So I may be able to invite friends over for a grouse dinner, but I’m not sure yet just how many.
Grouse country

Starting Cold

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from someone wanting to know where to locate good grouse cover. They had recently acquired a German shorthair pointer and thought grouse hunting sounded like fun. That certainly sounded like a backward way to come at the sport. On the plus side, they had joined local chapters of the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association and Ruffed Grouse Society, both excellent organizations.
Typical old cutting in the Northeast.
There probably is no better way to start than joining the Ruffed Grouse Society and a hunting dog group. At least then you will meet likeminded people who are bound to share some of their bird hunting knowledge. Whether you can get them to open up and share their favorite coverts may be another matter though. Grouse coverts are hard earned and shared sparingly.
State fish and game departments usually have experts that can point you in the right direction. When you are up in bird country, if you should happen upon any fishermen, hikers, and loggers, it doesn’t hurt to ask if they’ve seen any grouse. Most aren’t bird hunters and will gladly share what they know. And it doesn’t hurt to talk to sales people in local sporting goods stores, although dyed in wood grouse hunters aren’t all that common and salespeople are…well, salespeople, and likely to tell you what they think you want to hear.
The nearby softwoods provide shelter.
Other than that, I would pick a part of the country where there is still an abundance of timber harvesting and study it on Google Earth. Logging roads and activity such as clear cuts show up readily. Soft woods are easy to see, which provide shelter. An hour spent studying the images on Google Earth and the topographical maps of the area can save you days of walking.
The next step is to go to the locations that you’ve picked and to start walking. You are looking for shelter for the birds and a food source. Remember that available food changes with the seasons and what you see in the summer may not be there in the fall. A nearby stream is a plus. Logging roads can provide grit for the birds. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to find a drumming log. Maybe you’ll even bust a large covey of grouse.

And then plan to come back in the fall with your dog. If you’ve done your homework and hit pay dirt, you’ve found your first grouse covert. It is up to you whether you want to share it or not.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Making a List

Making a list,
Checking it twice.

No, I’m not singing Christmas carols. It’s that time of the year when I’m dreaming of my BIG trip up to Camp Grouse, and I want everything perfect for the whole two weeks. That means not leaving anything behind.
Our visiting star, Georgia.
I’ll bring extras of the important things, like guns and boots, even dogs, not that any of my buddies can ever be replaced by a substitute. There’s been a non-hunting friend’s shorthair tagging along the last couple of years, to “experience the things that she was bred for”. By the way, her performance has been spectacular, all from good breeding, not any serious hunt-training on anyone’s part.
Plenty of shotgun shells are already at camp, probably enough for the next six or eight years. Extra boots too, but I’ll bring more. Ditto for jackets and warm shirts.
Working on trashing that truck.
The truck will get a good cleaning before I head north, even though I know it will get totally trashed. In my notes from the end of last season last there’s a comment about coming home a day early to clean the truck because it was such a mess. I’m not certain I will give up a day of bird hunting for a clean truck, but maybe.
Dog food, dog first aid kit, kennel, maps and books, lots of books in case there’s a rainy day or two…it’s a pretty extensive list.
Inside my smartphone there’s a list of things to add to the list on my desk, which I printed out from the list inside my computer. At some point I’ll start piling things up in my office, and in no time I’ll forget what’s already in the pile and have to pull the stack apart.
Colby bringing me a grouse.
Groceries I’ll buy up there. The dufflebag of hunting paraphernalia will get dumped out ansorted. You can almost bet there’ll be an old sandwich in there along with fir needles, partridge wings, empty shotgun shells, and assorted twigs. I’m not prone to neatly sorting and putting things away at the end of the season. The season’s end is just too sad to do that.
Brush pants will receive a new coat of wax and hopefully all my shooting gloves will have mates. My old orange hat won’t look as bright as I’d like, but maybe there will be one for sale up in grouse country somewhere. The dogs will get excited when they hear the bells, as I’m sorting out their collars. They already know what time of the year it is and follow me about the house.

I'm ready.
Now, where is the list that’s supposed to be on my desk?

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Juno, sorting out
 the meaning of life
at eight weeks old.
We have a new puppy in the house. Could life be any better?
Yes, it can and it will. I took her out in the dark this morning about five, only to be startled by a duck quack by the driveway, then it quacked near the barn, and then over near the woods…it was flying unseen in the dark, probably trading between nearby ponds.
Fall is in the air. Last week we traveled up to Camp Grouse, where the former vibrant green hillsides had started to show signs of rust. Out walking, wild apples hung red from their trees and we found grouse, even busting an enormous covey just before we had to head south again. Twice we searched the sky for geese we could hear but barely see. I read in the news this morning they had a frost up there last night, which I’m sure softened the fruit hanging from trees. I can’t wait to return.
A hidden pond behind a clear cut in grouse country
Back here at home, the air is drier and the leaves sound different when ruffled by the wind. In the woods the low-growing huckleberry and blueberry have shed their leaves, and the ferns have shriveled to brown. The deep green of the oaks is tarnished and the clouds move faster across the sky. Ducks have appeared on the ponds, swimming in orderly flotillas, where a few weeks ago they all remained hidden.

My two German wirehairs
are enjoying the cool weather,
Both of the older dogs are a bit more intense in the woods, they sense what is coming. This morning, on a walk right after breakfast, they flushed a wild peahen in a field out back, and boy did that get them excited. Back in the yard, the pup watches the clusters of birds and dashes about after them, often tumbling over her own fat feet. 
Soon I'll be able to count the days until bird season opens on my fingers and toes. Life just keeps getting better,  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Such a Deal

This book is one of my favorites and a great classic, and when I went searching for a copy years ago I had trouble finding any for less than a hundred dollars. I know that in the free market system prices fluctuate, but this is such a deal. 
If you’ve thought about buying a copy of New England Grouse Shooting, by William Harnden Foster, now is the time.  I just checked the prices on of used copies on and I’ve never seen them lower.
Check it out at
There's a bird in there somewhere....

Friday, July 26, 2013


It is raining outside. A long stretch of unbearably hot weather has come to an end. I truly hope summer’s backbone is broken.
The rain has been steady, not the rumbling downpour of a summer thunderstorm, but rather the light steady rain that often comes in the fall. My German wirehairs are asleep at my feet, they must notice the change in the weather. I put on long pants after cleaning up from work, the first time in weeks.
Sometime during every day I think about bird hunting. The dogs are always under my feet and come to hang out in my cabinet shop most days, so they are a constant reminder. On our morning and evening walks they point rabbits and then watch them run away as I approach. One of these days, as we get into fall, it might be a woodcock rising and then I will be very excited too.

Another Rabbit!
    For now I sit in my office and watch the rain, surrounded by books. The gun safe is open, so the doubles can keep me company.  I’ll have to count the days again until October first.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Shared grouse country is a treasure.
It was something that I read in Gene Hill’s Shotgunner’s Handbook that got me to thinking about bird hunting manners. It is seldom spoken about, unless introducing a youngster to the sport, or even an oldster I guess, but manners are extremely important.
Gun safety is at the top of the list, keeping track of where that muzzle is pointed. The way grouse explode into the air and reflexes take over, it is easy to imagine horrible things happening.  Most of my hunting used to be done alone, and much still is, which eliminates that concern.
Game hogs can’t be tolerated, but with the wily grouse of today it is almost impossible to be a game hog. I guess it is more of an attitude thing. Hunting is about a lot more than the number of birds killed.
Guests hunting with me are always encouraged to take most of the shots. I’m not sure if that is me being gracious or maybe me trying to hide my so-so shooting. Enthusiastic newcomers are fun to watch, even if the ruffed grouse is usually long gone by the time the trigger is pulled. Seasoned hunters, who actually kill birds with some regularity, are like watching magicians.
Woodcock pinned
Most of us could not imagine hunting without a dog, and I’m sure our opinions of our own dogs are like those of our children, a bit tainted. Never ever should a hunter make a negative comment about someone else’s dog, and please leave the directing of the dog to its owner. If you are not sure of the proper protocol around another person’s dog, ask.
On occasion, in a large alder flat or grouse thicket and when we’ve been gunning over two dogs or more, I’ll tell the trusted friend to split off and take my older dog along. The oldest girl is what I call bullet-proof, with good habits so well ingrained that I know she’ll be fine, no matter what is said to her. Besides, she’s basically a whore and will hunt for anybody.
Training together
I love dogs and enjoy the pandemonium of hunting over multiples. I’m sure a lot of people think this is insane, and I don’t claim that it puts more birds in the bag. I guarantee it is never boring though and what person’s heart doesn’t flutter at the sight of three or more dogs pointing simultaneously.
In the field most of them seem to get along and tend to business, but it certainly is more fun if they all honor each other’s points. Occasionally, some dogs, often who’ve spent their lives hunting in preserves, are clueless out in the big northern forests. Most will put it all together in short order though, particularly if they are hunting alongside experienced dogs, but, if after a day or two they still haven’t, I don’t know if they ever will.
The right friend can add a lot of pleasure
to a day afield.
And definitely, to avoid the biggest faux pas of all, you must assume that when someone takes you to one of their favorite coverts it is not yours to share unless the privilege is specifically granted. And, quite frankly, I’ve never heard of that happening. Productive grouse cover is just too precious and hard to come by to casually spread around. Sleeping with another’s spouse will get you into no more trouble than stealing their coverts—it is that serious.
So a gun shot a little too close to me or my dogs, a frantic attitude about bagging birds, an unruly dog, or a shotgun’s muzzle that wanders casually all over the place—any one of those can take the fun out of my day and you need not be hunting with me again.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hot Weather

It has been really hot, so hot that when I am outside there seems to be bacon sizzling somewhere. At least my mind hears it, if only my nose could find the aroma.
Early morning walks, out back behind the house, are still possible, but by eight o’clock the woodland strolls are out of the question. They are not fun for me and the dogs suffer in the heat. Back at the house the dogs dig for cool soil to lay on, and I can’t blame them, but we try very hard to discourage it. Parts of the yard are starting to look like the No Man’s Land of World War I, all pot holes and bones. Taking the dogs down to one of the ponds is tempting and sometimes we get there, but other times the dogs and I just hunker down.
If I can avoid the persistent chores on the “to-do list” I’ll read, which is easily my favorite pastime in hot weather. Find me shade and a good book and I’m quite content while I wait for fall.
I just re-read Gene Hill’s book Shotgunner’s Notebook and enjoyed it immensely. I’m not sure if I learned anything new, but it brought a lot of things back that maybe had been filed in the foggy recesses of my brain. Some of the reviews of that book haven’t been the kindest because it was different than his other books, but you can still hear Gene’s voice and read his humor, plus learn something along the way.
I’ll have to rout around my bookshelves now to find something else to read. Or, while it’s really hot, it might be a good time to take my guns out, haul them down to my workbench in the cool basement, and give them a good cleaning, at least until the sun goes down.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Tween Seasons

It is between seasons, bird seasons that is. At some point, during every single day, thoughts of bird hunting slip through my head. They have to, living with bird dogs in the house and surrounded by books and photos on the subject.
Daily I walk, always with the dogs, to keep in shape. Nothing is more necessary to an upland bird hunter than a good pair of walking legs, and come October the dogs will ready to run too.
Colby and Chara, my two German wirehair pointers

In the mornings, before my workday starts, we trek through the fields and woods out behind the house. They love it almost as much as hunting and I do too. We have no upland game birds here on our island, except possibly a few woodcock that stay to nest somewhere. During the spring and fall those vagabonds migrate through and on more than one occasion my girls have pointed them, but finding a woodcock in the summer is rare. Quail, once abundant, are rare.
There are rabbits galore, and some days the dogs will point one or two and possibly give chase on my command, yet other days they show no interest in them at all. It’s the same with turkeys, who’s numbers are expanding and soon they will become a pest, just like our deer.
Morning sun on the field out back
From the grasses of the field out back we sometimes roust a deer. Two nights ago three decent-sized bucks, with their antlers in velvet, stood like statues in the tall grass at twilight, watching my dogs and I walk along the edge of the field. The dogs never pay much attention to the deer, there are so many of them that I think the dogs get bored with their scent. Oh, if they bump one out of its bed they may give chase for a hundred yards or so, but the dogs always come right back.
Under the oaks of the woods blueberries and huckleberries grow waist high, and, if they are not wet with dew, I’ll often push through them just to work my muscles harder. The dogs bound through them, leaping to see with every stride, their ears flapping like insufficient wings.
Some mornings I seek the sunny sides of the fields for warmth, others the shelter of the trees to break the winds. Lately the crickets have been murmuring in the mornings, but not as loud as later in the day. Turkeys gargle noisily. Crows seem to be everywhere and sometimes I swing my hand like a shotgun, pretending to fire when the lead feels right.
For a week or two a young skunk would turn up along our walk. The dogs would wind it and give it a wide berth, but the little bugger actually would actually charge at a human. I’m sure it made him feel powerful to watch the tall creature flee. With his absence the last couple of mornings I have been wondering if an owl might have had him for dinner.

Soon it will be July, and then comes August, when we can say “Bird season is the month after next….”
Another rabbit.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A New Pup

Our wirehairs, Chara with Colby the pup.

     We are down to two dogs in the house. After living with three for so long the place feels sort of empty. This past spring we had to put our high strung Vizsla down. The hole that she left behind is larger than her diminutive size. She may have been the runt of the litter, but she rose to be queen of the castle here.
     Sally, my virtual wife, has always had a soft spot for German shorthaired pointers, and, seeing that I picked the last dog, a German wirehair, it is her turn. She did a lot of research and has picked a kennel, one with a hunting background because that is important to us. We want a dog that will be at home in the rugged terrain of northern New England, and that is where this pup will be born.

Georgia, a friend's GSP at five months on point.
So now the mom has been bred and the wait begins.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Hill

     The hill has an odd name. It is named after the same man as the town it is in, but that is all I’m going to tell you. Years ago it was out in the middle of nowhere and I hunted deer there and birds too. A memory sticks of walking out of the woods, after shooting time had passed, and seeing a monster buck ghost across the woods road ahead of me.
     What made the hill special were the old farms. Up on the top there were two, both long abandoned, but marked with sagging homes settling into old stone foundations. In the fields game had trampled paths between the scraggly apple trees and the cedar swamp down below. Old tote roads crisscrossed the upper wooded slopes, and every single one of them seemed to lead exactly where you wanted to go. It was that kind of magical place. In a field halfway down the eastern side stood a box-like camp where an old woman lived by herself during the summers. I wish I could remember her name.
     Somehow, two decades slipped by without visiting that hill, but finally I went back with my young German wirehaired pointer named Chara and my Parker shotgun that had turned a hundred years old that year.
     Unbeknownst to me a horrific ice storm had flattened the trees a few years earlier, obliterating most of the landmarks. Up on the top of the hill two homes had been built near the ancient fallen ones and the old fields there were posted. Travel through what had once been woods was impossible, with trees broken and lying in a tangled mess. The claws of chest high raspberries flourished in the new sunlight.
     We found that little camp in the field halfway down the hill. Someone had been there recently and it looked much like I remembered it. Above the house a pool had been re-dug next to a spring and firewood was stacked on the far side of the porch.
     Where an old footpath came down the hill into the field, I tried to pick my way between the raspberries’ thorns. A fallen maple trunk blocked the way, and then another. And then Chara flushed a grouse.
     She went into overdrive, pushing under or jumping over obstacles and oblivious to the vicious briars. Several more grouse exploded into the sky. I sat on a log and watched, knowing she would be back eventually and was learning a lesson along the way---dogs can’t catch grouse.
     Her tongue looked a foot long when she came back panting. We found that spring fed pool and she stretched right out in the icy water to drink her fill. Sauntering out the old tote road toward the truck, I carried my old Parker shotgun broken open and draped over my shoulder. It had been quite a day.
     And of course a lone grouse dropped out of a busted-off old spruce and flew straight away down the road, offering one of the easiest shots a man could ever hope to see.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


     Georgia is staying at our house while her owners are away. In case you missed the earlier posts, she’s a young German shorthaired pointer who will be two in May and belongs to friends of ours. Georgia is intense, almost constantly in motion, ever hunting, but she is very well mannered, I will give her that.
     I’m lucky and make a living as a cabinetmaker with a shop only a few feet from our home. Most days our two German wirehaired pointers hang out in the shop, and this past week Georgia has been there too. While the wires sleep, Georgia searches for mice.
     On Monday I had to install cabinets at a customer’s summer home out in the middle of nowhere, so I brought the dogs along to let them poke around the yard and swim in the pond. In the afternoon I didn’t see Georgia around, so I peeked into the backyard. There she was, munching down a rabbit that she had just caught. By the time I got it away from her the hind end was devoured.
     The next day was unusually warm, so I had the big doors to my shop open. My wirehairs stretched out in the sun and slept. I found Georgia underneath my truck with her head stuck inside a box of dog biscuits, which had been almost full earlier in the day.
    We left her in the house this morning, and when I went inside for lunch the placemats on the dining table were either on the floor or askew. Somebody had obviously been table surfing. No damage was done
     I love Georgia’s constant inquisitiveness and that drive to hunt. Last fall her abilities in the field were outstanding, especially considering how little formal hunting training she had. How many young dogs do you know that can handle ruffed grouse on a regular basis?
     Her motions are measured, as if she wants to make certain that she can run all day. And she’s a real sweetie, always comes when called and wants to give you a lick when she arrives. In the woods she keeps track of her handler and never seems to tire. She’s just pretty to look at and a joy to watch. 
     But the best thing about Georgia is that she makes my wirehairs appear so well mannered.